In Defense of Globalization.
By Jagdish Bhagwati.
Oxford University Press. 308 pp. $28.
There are many books out there on economic globalization, but this is one to own and to keep on the shelf for frequent reference. It is solid, well organized, clearly written, and wickedly witty. As a younger man, Bhagwati was enamored of socialism, and in this book he sometimes quotes his old self to make a new point. His main reason for defending globalization is that he believes that it leads toward the goals that motivated him then and motivate him still: he wants to support a system that raises up the poor, succors the environment, and gives the fullest possible opportunity to all levels of society. Since he remembers the arguments that once fooled him, he can explain better than anyone I have read what works and why. Knowing India and Asia well, Bhagwati packs this book with examples taken from the poorest parts of the world. In 1970 11percent of the world’s poor were in Africa and 76percent were in Asia; but by 1998 Africa had 66percent of the world’s poor and Asia only 15percent. Bhagwati explains that Asia made such immense progress in reducing poverty through economic growth, growth promoted by those means that socialists hated and that anticapitalists still hate. After the fall of socialism in the break-up of the Soviet Union, where does today’s anticapitalism come from? Bhagwati goes frequently to antiglobalization demonstrations and asks the young participants to talk about their reasons and arguments. He reports that most of these protesters are remarkably ignorant of economics, and that they come from English, comparative literature, and sociology courses in which they have imbibed, via Derrida and Foucault, the main principles of Marx and Lenin on capitalism, imperialism, and business. Bhagwati also discusses the ironic effect of a new technology, international TV news. For the inexperienced young, it reverses the usual pattern of sympathies, inducing greater empathy for distant individuals, shown dramatically as victims, than for one’s own countrymen and kin, who are part of a great gray band of “oppressors.” Children, women, culture, ecology, corporations, immigration, coping with downsides, managing transitions—Bhagwati has chapters on all of these and on many other issues that must be a part of any responsible defense of globalization. Bhagwati, author of many books and founder of the Journal of International Economics, is already internationally renowned. I hope that through this superbly argued book he will become familiar to many more Americans.
Breaking the Da Vinci Code: Answers to the Questions Everyone’s Asking.
By Darrell L. Bock.
Nelson Books. 208 pp. $19.99.
Few works of popular literature in recent times have blurred the line between fiction and pseudo-historical propaganda more skillfully than Dan Brown’s conspiracy-laden novel, The DaVinci Code. Its phenomenal success in tale-weaving, combined with a not-too-subtle unorthodox message, has succeeded in raising doubts about the Christian tradition and story in the minds of impressionable postmoderns, whe-ther they are nonbelievers or simply Christians not well enough grounded in their history. The novel has also spawned a number of publications in response to its underlying thesis. Chief among them is this monograph by Darrell Bock, a research professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. He deftly proceeds to crack the various “codes” embedded in Brown’s book, including those concerning the identity of Mary Magdalene; the question of whether Jesus was married; how the canon of the New Testament, especially the four Gospels, came to be accepted; whether the “secret” Gnostic gospels aid our understanding of Jesus; and various other issues. Bock observes, “It is my view that novelists do not necessarily make good historians, and that matters when a topic like this one is portrayed in such an entertaining way as quasi-nonfiction. It is especially important when several ideas build into a huge theory—and each part of the construct is suspect.” The result of Bock’s labor is a competent refutation of the The DaVinci Code’s erroneous assertions and a clear affirmation of Christian orthodoxy.
Dresden, Tuesday, February 13, 1945.
By Frederick Taylor.
HarperCollins. 544 pp. $26.95.
Proponents of the Western just war tradition are often asked if just war thinking has ever made a practical difference in the way Western nation-states fight wars. The answer is “yes,” and nowhere is the difference more dramatic than in the tactical use of air power since World WarII. The creation of new and more precise conventional airborne weapons (as opposed to nuclear weapons which are stockpiled largely for deterrence purposes rather than offensive use) can be seen as an effort to ensure that the destructive power of air war conforms to the moral principles of proportionality of means and noncombatant immunity. We’ve become used to hearing of “smart bombs” and this is an accurate description of a genuinely moral as well as technical advance. The moral turning point for the West was the conscience-wracking aftermath of the obliteration bombing done in Germany and Japan. Among these missions the firebombing of Dresden stands out for its destructiveness—and has traditionally been considered the low point in willful and vengeful Allied brutality against innocent German civilians (and even, perhaps, like Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a show of strength to the Soviet Union)—with a death toll that some have set as high as a hundred thousand. Frederick Taylor’s fresh look at the infamous attack is a reexamination of the received opinion that Dresden was a city of little military value and that the raid on it was thus a malicious attack. Dresden was, in fact, an industrial and rail center of some military importance, and many Dresden citizens produced armaments and military provisions, thus putting them into the category of legitimate military targets. Taylor recognizes that the mission represents the outer limits of moral permissibility even in the best of causes, and he does not so much justify the mission as, by comprehensive research and the clearing away of myth, seek to paint a picture of the mission that is not as black as we thought. Among other clarifications he makes, Taylor estimates the true number of deaths to be between 25,000 and 40,000—still a horrifying toll, considering that many citizens were not associated with military productio
n and supply. Taylor has succeeded in his quest to give us a more accurate account of exactly what happened at Dresden and why. Not only does his book help us to grapple with this horror and clarify its genesis and meaning; it reminds us of why we should be thankful for the subsequent weapons designers who have done all they could to give us tactical options other than those used in the bombing of Dresden.
The Fountain of Youth: Cultural, Scientific, and Ethical Perspectives on a Biomedical Goal
Edited by Stephen G. Post and Robert H. Binstock.
Oxford University Press. 463 pp. $59.95.
“Prolongevity” is a neologism that may be with us for a long time to come. It means “the significant extension of the length of human life, free from the diseases and disabilities now associated with old age,” and there is substantial funding for and substantial interest in every sort of anti-aging and anti-dying project. This collection of eighteen well-written and thoughtfully annotated pieces expresses a range of perspectives—from principled enthusiasm to principled doubt—by practitioners of a variety of relevant disciplines. Among the eighteen contributors are Stephen Post and others whose names are probably well known to readers of FT, such as Carol Zaleski, Leon Kass, Neil Gillman, and Diogenes Allen, as well as other heavyweights in the field (Jay Olshansky, Michael R. Rose, Audrey Chapman, and Arthur Caplan, to name a few). The essays explore the history of the quest for stays against aging and death, and the medical, biological, philosophical, ethical, and social issues we must confront today. This is an informative primer on the state of a topic that will increasingly preoccupy our rapidly (but reluctantly?) aging population.
Aging, Death, and the Quest for Immortality
Edited by C.Ben Mitchell, Robert D. Orr, and Susan Salladay.
Eerdmans. 202 pp. $24.
Like the Post and Binstock volume noted above, this collection (of thirteen articles) features physicians, ethicists, theologians, and educators, but its concerns are more practical than theoretical, with a focus on spiritual life, pastoral issues, dealing with senile dementia, and palliative care. The whole process of aging toward death has gained urgency as a topic of cultural discourse because many factors have coalesced to put us in the middle of a “longevity revolution,” with “futurists” and “life extension” mavens talking feverishly at times of halting aging and curing death. In the section on “The Quest for Immortality,” C.Ben Mitchell notes that human beings already are, strictly speaking, immortal; and as for the prospect of very long lives—“An extended life of selfish narcissism would be hellish. The ultimate end of longevity must be the glory of the sovereign God.” Stephen Post’s contribution on “Dementia: Inclusive Moral Standing” expands on some of the themes touched on in an article he recently wrote for this journal (April). This volume will be an excellent resource for pastors and those in ministry to the elderly and families.
Exploring the Religious Life.
By Rodney Stark.
The Johns Hopkins University Press. 224 pp. $39.95.
Baylor University has further strengthened its bid to exemplify a different kind of Christian university by recruiting Rodney Stark, whom some consider, not without reason, today’s most provocative thinker in the sociology of religion. This book of essays is a sampler of Stark’s sometimes contrarian but always suggestive explorations into “the religious life,” which he argues from multiple demonstrations cannot be reduced to something else—whether social, moral, economic, or psychological. Here he debunks established ways of distinguishing religion from magic and science; shows that religious aspiration, far from being the sigh of the poor, is typically an undertaking of the well-to-do; examines why women tend to be more religious than men; challenges claims that “secularization” replaces religion; and argues against the tradition, stretching from Durkheim onward, which maintains that religion is to be understood as ritualized social projection rather than as ideas and truth claims that have their own distinctive force in both daily life and historical change. Throughout, Stark is sharply critical of sociological studies obsessed with statistics and survey research, arguing for a “theory-driven” approach that proposes interesting ideas and then puts them to the test of what we can know about the real world, including what can be known by statistical studies and survey research. The sociology of religion, along with sociology in general, has fallen upon hard times in recent decades. Rodney Stark gives his ailing discipline a needed injection of fresh ideas that could, just possibly, restore it to its former intellectual vitality.
The Ecumenical Future.
Edited by Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson.
Eerdmans. 237 pp. $24 paper.
Last year a group of sixteen theologians from various Christian traditions published In One Body Through the Cross, which became known as the Princeton Proposal on the ecumenical future. The proposal received detailed and sympathetic consideration in these pages (see FT June/July 2003). The present book offers fourteen scholarly essays that served as resources for the drafting of the Princeton Proposal. It is a veritable tour d’horizon of current ecumenical thought among Orthodox, Catholic, and sundry Protestant thinkers who have broad and deep experience with the search for Christian unity. Like the Princeton Proposal, the book provides a grim picture of the institutional ecumenical movement that began in Edinburgh in 1910, was greatly boosted by the Second Vatican Council, and now seems to have hit a dead end. Not much is expected of the mainline/oldline communions that style themselves “ecumenical,” and the authors can only hope that the vibrantly growing Evangelical and Pentecostal movements will turn their energies toward Christian unity, and that Orthodoxy with its theological and liturgical riches can overcome its own divisions and produce a dynamic of convergence for others. Those are somewhat wistful hopes. For the present and foreseeable future, all eyes are on the Roman Catholic Church with its irrevocable commitment to Christian unity. While the Catholic Church stays in conversation with everyone, she has not to date found a way to propose practicable steps toward full communion that do not arouse in others a fear of losing what they most value in their own traditions. As was said here of the Princeton Proposal, the conclusion is that we must continue to pray together, study together, talk together, and find ways of serving and evangelizing together, all the while awaiting an unpredictable and uncontrollable movement of the Spirit that will, or so we pray, show the way to full communion.
Salvation Is from the Jews.
By Roy H. Schoeman.
Ignatius. 392pp. $16.95 paper.
Combining the scholarly and the personal, the author makes a very readable argument for Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism, and for Jewish fulfillment as a Catholic Christian. While teaching at Harvard, Schoeman was mystically drawn to the Blessed Virgin and the sacraments and, after his conversion, became active with the growing community of those who call themselves Hebrew Catholics. The book provides an instructive introduction to a spiritual way unfamiliar to most Jews and most Christians alike.
Educating for Shalom.
By Nicholas Wolterstorff.
Eerdmans. 328pp. $24 paper.
The fruit of years of reflection on Christian higher education by a long-time professor of philosophical theology at Yale Divinity School should command the attention of everyone caught up in the puzzlement of how a religiously qualified university can be a real university. Confusions and conflicts over that question wrack Catholics on all sides of the effort of Ex Corde Ecclesiae to revive Catholic identity in higher education, as well as evangelical Protestants striving to escape what they view as the restrictions of confessional commitment. Of particular interest is Wolterstorff’s argument that academic freedom cannot mean “free speech” in general but is defined by what the academy is for. The author, a Calvinist, ends with a warm appreciation of John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, expressing “awe and astonishment” that a “subtle philosophical discourse should be issued by the head of a vast ecclesiastical bureaucracy.”
Public Policy and Social Issues: Jewish Sources and Perspectives.
Edited by Marshall J. Breger.
Praeger. 281 pp. $49.95.
An excellent resource for understanding the Jewish position, or positions, on controverted social questions, including euthanasia, abortion, sexual ethics, family, welfare, and the market economy. Unfortunately, as some of the authors acknowledge, many Jews are indifferent to what is authentically Jewish, but for serious Jews and for public discourse in a society in which Judaism matters, it is useful to lay down the markers that identify a distinctive tradition, which is what this book succeeds in doing.
Religion as a Public Good: Jews and Other Americans on Religion in the Public Square.
Edited by Alan Mittleman.
Rowman & Littlefield. 336 pp. $29.95 paper.
This is the third volume issued by Mittleman and colleagues under the auspices of a Pew-funded research project called Jews and the American Public Square. The first two titles published under this rubric (see FT March 2003) are Jews and the American Public Square and Jewish Polity and American Civil Society. The Jewish and non-Jewish contributors gathered here write seriously and well on the question (and for some of them it is a question, complete with question mark) of religion as a public good, and in what quantities and mixtures it may properly contribute to our common life. There is much here that is specific to Jewish experience and thought, but there is also much that applies to all religious believers who wish to understand themselves as full participants in American public life.
The Virtue of War: Reclaiming the Classic Christian Traditions East and West.
By Alexander F. C. Webster and Darrell Cole.
Regina Orthodox Press. 252pp. $19.95 paper.
The distinctive contribution of this book is in the plural “traditions” of its subtitle. Augustine and Aquinas are here, of course, as are Calvin and Niebuhr in the Protestant tradition. But with scholarly care and energetic argument, the authors draw also on Byzantine fathers, icons, and the lives of the saints in making the case that going to war and conduct in war can be virtuous. In doing so, they counter the claim that just war is “a necessary evil” rather than a positive duty in the service of securing peace. The book is a noteworthy exercise in ecumenical moral theology and also a challenge to Christians who too easily assume that simply opposing war is the way to peace.